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Kolja Spori's Posts
Kolja has posted 35 reports and 7 photos.

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Afghanistan Visit: 2010-5
2010-06-15 - Despite the ongoing war in Afghanistan, we had no problem obtaining visas at their Berlin Embassy. From Termez, Uzbekistan we drove the 75 km into Northern Afghanistan to Mazar-i-Sharif. We saw a lot of military convois, including some German troops, but in that area it is supposed to be safe and quiet. The "best hotel" in town is the Renaissance, formerly Royal Oak, but it is pretty run down and basic for such a big city. Taxi drivers offered voluntarily to drive us to Kabul as if it were the most normal thing to do, so we assume that this trip in a local car cannot be that dangerous.

Aland Islands Visit: 2008-9
2009-09-13 - I took an overnight ferry from Stockholm to the Aland Islands on a Friday evening. This was more of a mega cruise ship where the Swedish youth likes to party all night. Alcohol is much less expensive than on the mainland and most of the passengers make full use of this fact. Smoking is allowed in the bar (important for a cigar afficionado). Other inhibitions fall accordingly. It seemed to me that many of the passengers would sleep in another cabin than the one they booked ;-) Being a faithful guy, I could only indulge on the huge buffet. A smorgasboard for seafood lovers.

Andorra Visit: 2004-8
2009-09-13 - I quickly drove up to Andorra in a rental car from Barcelona. I love Andorra - because they have the best stock of cigars at the best prices in Europe!

At the time, I didn't know I would become a country point collector, so I unfortunately didn't visit nearby Llivia...

Angola (other) Visit: 2008-4
2009-05-09 - It is notoriously difficult to obtain a visa for Angola, especially if you are not applying in your country of residence. We got our visas in Johannesburg, but only through connections. Then we drove overland to enter Angola at the main border with Namibia called Oshikango. Funnily, we were refused entry although we had proper documentation. Usually, it happened the other way around for me in Africa. The reasoning of the border guard was that we didn't have enough cash to sustain ourselves. He calculated US$ 200 per day, times 30 days visa duration, times 3 passengers, requiring us to put US$ 18.000 (!!!) cash on the table. Our collection of credit cards didn't impress him, neither our friendly or later unfriendly stories about who we were and who we knew. The good news was that we were forced to use the lesser traveled border gate at Ruacana, which was a hell of a trip (20 hours for 200km on a rut track, getting stuck many times), but turned out to be the real highlight of our trip as well. And friendly were the border guards! Back on the main road we stayed in Lubango and Lobito (Benguela), the latter offering the very nice beach Hotel Terminus, which is at a surprisingly high level. In the capital Luanda, there is not so much of a tourist or expat infrastructure yet, although the economy is booming. There is a nice lodge at a beach outside the capital.

Botswana Visit: 2009-2
2009-05-09 - The Okavango Delta in Botswana is my worldwide favourite for wildlife viewing, or more precisely the stretch from Chobe via Savuti and Khwai River to Moremi. The driving on this "road" is quite rough, not a simple game park kind of thing. The abundance of elephants and the possibility to view all the other members of the Big Five in an atmosphere of total wilderness is fantastic. You rarely see another tourist. They also have some of the most luxurious lodges in the world, unfortunately with a corresponding price tag. If you arrive by car in the low season and you are a resident in one of the Souther African countries, you can lower the pPpN price from US$ 1000 to US$ 200. The capital Gaborone has not much to offer, not even one luxury hotel. I still need to do the Kgagaladi Transfrontier Park and the Kalahari Reserve, which are supposed to be very good too.

Burundi Visit: 2009-2
2009-05-09 - I drove from Kigali, Rwanda to Bujumbura, Burundi and had no problem to get a visa at the border, although this is "officially" not possible. The country was still full of rebel activity with camouflaged government soldiers lined up at the roadside on the last 50 km before the capital. There is a relatively nice beach hotel just outside town, next to the heavily armed UN barracks, called Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika, which receives a lot of the war business and has this special atmosphere of a nice expat waterhole in a more remote area of Africa.

Chechnya Visit: 2010-9
2010-09-10 - Grozny in 2010 is a modern, well-developed and impressive city. The scars of the past are not visible any more. There is "the biggest Mosque in Europe", a large shopping center, impressive new monuments, a modern small airport. There is even an upmarket place to stay, the Hotel Arena City with 5 star rooms, excellent restaurant and fitness center. Chechens have one of the most interesting and distinct cultures in the world. It was great to experience their hospitality first-hand. We very much liked their food, as well as their music and dance performances. Weapons, bodyguards and wild looking strongmen are still ubiquituous which retains the special flavor of the area. There are currently 3 flights per day from Moscow, in Yak 40s by Grozny Avia. We traveled onwards by private car to Sochi, via Ingushetia, North-Ossetia-Alania, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachai-Cherkessia, Adygea. Our trip was arranged at an influential level, but it seems that independent tourism is possible for those with very good nerves. To get in the right mood, read the quote from Lonely Planet: "Traveling independently in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan is like walking on the moon without a spacesuit".

Dagestan Visit: 2011-3
2012-03-28 - Currently Dagestan ranks as Russia's most dangerous area, possibly together with Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. Previous title-holder Chechnya is now well developed and rather safe. We reached Dagestan's capital Makhachkala in 2 hours by car from Grozny, after landing in Chechnya in a Grozny Avia flight from Moscow. We then changed cars in Makhachkala for a 7 hour drive on partially bad roads to Astrakhan. There are no good hotels in Makhachkala. Lots of security controls.

DRC (Zaire) Visit: 2009-2
2009-05-09 - I entered Goma, the troubled Eastern Congolese border town by foot from Gisenyi, Rwanda, just after the ceasefire. It is possible to get a visa at the border if you negotiate your way and speak straight to the boss. The Hotel Ihusi is walking distance for a nice lunch with a view on the lake, but it is worthwhile finding a private car for a city tour. I didn't stay overnight. Goma could be Nr. 1 on the dangerous places list, given it's recent war history, the volcano eruption that destroyed half of the town and the poisonous gases that regularly erupt from Lake Kivu - plus all the other little problems that Central Africa has to offer. Well, it was both an easy and a challenging country point...

Ducie Island Visit: 2002-11
2009-09-13 - We visited Ducie Island on an expedition cruise with the "MS World Discoverer" just after Pitcairn. There is nothing much too see on Ducie (see also Henderson Island). Some birds maybe. The good side of this trip was that we met a very friendly British couple onboard, who are also members of MTP today, and who initiated me to the idea of collecting country points for the Traveler's Century Club. Thanks for a nice addiction! :-)

Gagauzia Visit: 2008-9
2009-09-01 - You can reach Gagauzia by taxi (very cheap, ca. US$ 50) from Chisinau in ca. 90 minutes one way. I didn't stay overnight, but headed straight onwards via Transnistria to Odessa in the same car (total fare US$ 250).

Gambier Islands Visit: 2002-11
2009-09-13 - Gambier Islands are a jewel in the French Polynesian archipelago, but much less visited than they deserve. I think you need to get a permit in Tahiti and then you can take a weekly flight in a propeller plane. We visited Mangareva, the main island, on a trip with the expedition cruiser "MS World Discoverer" and although we visited only one day, we made a wonderful friendship with a former French Foreign Legionnaire, who opted to stay in the region, after his last post - the Mururoa Atoll. He now makes a living as a pearl farmer. As a gift he gave my wife a huge black pearl. (We later sent him some kids toys and clothing for his little daughter.) Well, we were the only people onboard who were not afraid of this somewhat dangerous looking man. A wonderful encounter.

Guinea-Bissau Visit: 2012-1
2012-01-23 - It is easy to get a Guniea-Bissau visa on the spot in their consulates in Banjul or Ziguinchor. We entered the country by road from Sao Domingos and tried to exit at both Southern border crossings towards Guinea near Quebo. Both were still flooded in mid-January, so we had to drive the 300km detour eastwards via Bafata and Gabu to Pitche, in order to enter Guinea at Foulamory. The road was good asphalt until Gabu, then badly potholed. Compared to Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau had much less roadblocks, bribe soliciting or other police hassle.

Guyana Visit: 2011-4
2011-04-24 - Overland through French Guyana, Dutch Guyana (Suriname) and British Guyana:

The three Guyanas were less exotic or difficult than I thought.

The shared taxi from the "Central Hotel" in Cayenne to the Surinamese border leaves at 8am for €35, switching vehicles once, taking ca. 3,5hrs on perfectly tarred roads. If I'd do it again, I'd try to get a one-way car hire at the airport which seems possible. There is an interesting looking hotel halfway, called "Hotel du Fleuve", 30 mins after Kourou.

To enter Suriname the easiest way is by motorized canoo for € 5. There is also a regular car ferry several times a day. The border post in St. Laurent du Moroni is open during normal business hours. Easy. The taxi from that border to Paramaribo is € 90 for ca 2,5hrs on a good dirt road. The best hotel in Paramaribo is the "Royal Torarica". The taxi from there to the border town of Nieuw Nickerie is € 150, taking 3hrs on a scenic tarred road. The best hotel there is the "Regency".

The legal way to enter Guyana is by car ferry, which leaves another 30mins down the road at 11am. There is an illegal way to enter on motorized canoos, which they call "back track" for € 70 (alone), leaving from the edge of town. The ride takes ca. 45mins on pretty open water and may be a bit dangerous - for several reasons. I would have taken that canoo at 5h30 am, but some wonderfully dodgy characters said the first boat would not be ready before 8am. I figured out I could just as well take the official ferry - with an official entry stamp. That probably saved me a lot of hassle at the very bureaucratic airport controls when leaving Guyana.

The shared taxi to Georgetown took 2,5hrs on a good tarred road. The best hotel there is the "Pegasus", although quite worn out. The airport is a bloody 45mins outside town. Very few flights, so I had to go back to town to leave next morning to Trinidad (at least 3 flights there per day, 2 others to Barbados).

Best hotels:

Novotel Cayenne ****
Hotel du Fleuve, near Kourou ****
Royal Torarica, Paramaribo *****
Regency, Nieuw Nickerie ***
Pegasus, Georgetown (ex-Meridien) ****

Henderson Island Visit: 2002-11
2009-09-13 - We visited Henderson Island on an expedition cruise with the "MS World Discoverer" just after Pitcairn. There is nothing much too see on Henderson. Some birds maybe. Surprisingly much rubbish (plastic bottles, buoys, etc.) washed ashore. There was the talk that somebody had planned to build an airstrip on Henderson, because it is quite a long, narrow, even-level island. This airport would rather cater for the more touristy and pictoresque Pitcairn, but the project seems to have gone nowhere.

Iraq Visit: 2009-7
2009-07-26 - I stayed in Zakho/Iraq for one night, entering from Silopi/Turkey and regretted that I had not allocated more time for Iraqi Kurdistan. Border procedures, transport and safety levels were a lot smoother than expected. In Silopi you will be flagged down by some local Turkish Kurds who offer their trans-border-transport for US$ 55. This includes the organisation of paperwork (simply a passport photocopy), running to the 6 or so different border officials and the drive over to Iraq, where you have to change the car and need to pay another US$ 7 for a 10 min drive to downtown Zakho. The whole procedure took about 2 hours. No prior visa required!The stamp in the passport states "Republic of Iraq Kurdistan Region". The best hotel in Zakho is apparently the "Sipan", but don't expect much. This is a 3* motel kind of place. Paid US$ 35 for a wooden hut. Hygienic levels are very low. Friendly staff. Good garden restaurant.If you have the time, tell the taxi driver to steer onwards to Dahuk, Sulaimaniye or Erbil. This is a standard routine for them and there seems to be nothing to worry about.

Kalmykia Visit: 2012-4
2012-05-17 - We drove by car from Machackala to Astrakhan, crossing all of Kalmykia. Unfortunately we had no time to visit Kalmykia's "chess" capital Elista, but we got a good impression of the Republic anyway. It is the only Buddhist country in Europe. The majority of people carry mongoloid features. Kalmykia derives from Turkish "kalmish" which means "stayed behind" ... instead of migrating to modern Mongolia. The drive took us about 8 hours on surprisingly bad roads, sometimes on washed-out mud, almost requiring a 4x4. Part of this Caspian Steppe is below sealevel, therefore the corrugations. There was a big detour of ca. 50 km around a construction site where supposedly a new road is built.

Karakalpakstan Visit: 2010-5
2010-06-15 - We drove West from Bukhara, direction Urgench, waiting for a road sign to announce our arrival in Karakalpakastan, but we didn't find one. As we were not sure if the main road had already touched this "country point" we continued driving all the way to Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakastan. Nukus itself is not very nice, but the adjacent city of Mizdakhan - a burial city of the dead - is quite an amazing sight. This area carries a certain mystique and I would highly recommend to cross the border to Turkmenistan from here, as you can continue the trip to the ancient sights of Konye-Urgench, the fascinating burning gas crater at Derveze and the surprisingly modern and different capital Ashgabat. A really interesting part of the world!

Kerala Visit: 2009-2
2009-09-13 - After Goa, I tried my second cure of Ayurvedic treatment in Kerala, where this ancient medical art was founded more than 2000 years ago. I can highly recommend a two-week-programme in Kovalam at the "Beach & Lake Resort" or at the "Manaltheeram Beach Village". Afterwards you will feel rejuvenated for twenty years. I think it is important that you don't do Ayurveda in a luxury resort, because the experience will only work in a harder, more medical, almost monk-like environment. I also learnt the oldest martial art called "Kalaripayat". It was one of the most inexpensive, yet most rewarding "holidays" I ever took. For the normal luxury traveller in the area I would recommend the "Leela Kempinski" or the very small "Lagoona Davina".

Liberia Visit: 2009-4
2009-05-09 - If you know somebody in Liberia, you can get a visa on arrival at Monrovia airport. The drive downtown takes between 1 to 2 hours and still gives an impression of the devastation that took place in the 90s and early 00s, during one of the worst civil wars ever. You may want to watch the movies "Blood Diamond" and "Lord of War" before your trip for further information. The only acceptable hotel used to be the "Mamba Point Hotel" next to the American Embassy, where some foreign daredevils even stayed in the worst times of fighting. Now there is the first luxury RLJ Kendeja resort about to open half-way between the airport and the city. If you have the time for a 3hrs-trip, Robertsport, close to the Sierra Leone border, has some waves for surfing and a tented camp. The road is one-half new tar and one-half new laterite, but there are a number of Nigerian-run UN checkpoints.

Libya Visit: 2011-6
2011-06-23 -
In the current civil war situation, Benghazi Airport is not yet operational again for commercial flights, so we had to take the long road from Cairo. It is 800 km to the border town of Salloum and another 700 km to Benghazi, all asphalt and mostly surrounded by desert. In theory we could have taken the official shuttle buses, brand new Mercedes Vitos, that connect Cairo and Benghazi as a lifeline and qualify as the most comfortable bushtaxi in all of Africa. Instead we rented a Mitsubishi Pajero and enjoyed going highspeed on the empty Egyptian highways through the black night.

At the border, we witnessed the massive tented town surrected by the UN for those unfortunate foreign refugees that fled the conflict eastwards, lacking funds, visas or a strong passport and got stuck. Terrible time killing in miserable conditions. Even the custom halls were full of people, mostly Africans, sleeping on the floor and we literally had to jump over them when we crossed early in the morning. Even 'strong' countries like England had handwritten posters with emergency telephone numbers put up on the walls, in most cases embassy contacts in Cairo.

The border post is now run by the 'rebels' that captured the East of Libya from Colonel Gaddafi and only operates for people accredited on official missions or holding a press card, so we prepared some paperwork and dress that made us look like like journalists. We didn't fail the interrogation and were through the border within two hours including hiding our rental car in no-mans land. As further preparation we carried some bulletproof vests and satellite phones. I was worried about reports that foreigners had been tortured and in rare cases killed when the rebels had suspicions about spy activity, but our press 'cover' held. Taking the border was our first 'mission accomplished' and I had gotten my revenge on the old regime that two years ago refused my entry at the Western border, on the grounds of [b]"unusal travel pattern"[/b], although I carried a proper visa at the time. "Unusal travel pattern..." I like that term :-)

Next thing, we hired a local driver for US$ 150 who took us speedily and safely to Benghazi in 6 hours on the coastal road. There are about a dozen rebel check points, mostly friendly, but grimly equipped with arms from tanks to anti-aircraft machine guns. We didn't encounter any battle activity, not even higher tensity, as the frontline is now further south. But the most direct route between the border and Benghazis still considered unsafe and not in use.

In Libya's provisional new capital we stayed at the Tibesti Hotel which is the local Grande Dame and features the typical atmosphere of a conflict zone hotel: camouflaged security, UN people, local rebels turned politicians, businessmen, some shadier guys looking like mercenary brokers, the inevitable journalists - and the two of us. The 70s style interior asks for a renovation. The food buffett is good, if you haven't eaten properly the whole day. Staff is extremely friendly. Somehow I liked the Tibesti, even if in other countries it would be called 'a bit seedy and run down'.

The city itself, although one of the most garbage-infested I have ever seen, bristles with joy and positive atmosphere after their victory against Gaddafis troops. Every evening there is huge celebration on the main square. Many men wave their guns and I was happy not to be hit by a shot of joy. French President Sarkozy is a 'national' hero, because he saved the inhabitants when his airforce struck Gaddafis tanks on the outskirts seven hours before the other Nato countries and thereby prevented another bloody Battle of Benghazi, in this city that already witnessed tragedy in WW I and II.

Our local fixer / driver was actually an ex-Gaddafi commando turned rebel, turned new-government-army, now turned taxi driver, guide, translator. He heavily criticised Gaddafi (of course) for spending too much money on all sorts of African conflicts like in Chad and Rwanda, but too little in Libya and not creating enough jobs. For trading oil against arms with Russians. And for having too many women on the side... And our fixer obviously didn't even know what [b]Bunga Bunga[/b] means ... Well, as most people in power would probably fail those moral tests, I thought to myself that meeting Gaddafi personally still remains very high on my to do list. After all, he is one of the most charismatic statesmen in our lifetime, maybe on a par with Fidel Castro.

The stories of Gaddafi-ordered mass rapes supported by tons of imported Viagra sound like cheap black propaganda to me. Truth is the first casualty in any war ...

On our own casualty side we only had one car break down in Libya and one exploding fire extinguisher in the back of our rental 4x4. But the general situation in the area is a lot more stable and friendly than expected. Extraordinarily friendly, those Libyans, thanks a lot!

To be honest, we felt safer in Libya than in Egypt. On the way back we made a quick detour to the famous Siwa Oasis. It was deserted. No tourists whatsoever and the top hotels Adrere Amellal and T Ecolodge were closed. One can only wish that things turn for the better in the now 'free' Maghreb countries.

Monaco Visit: 2009-5
2009-05-09 - This is one of the best places on the planet. A caleidoscope of colorful people live and work in Monaco and many more come for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Yacht Show, the Tennis Tournament, the Circus Festival or the other festivities. The price level is high, but the quality of service is usually good, except perhaps in the main tourist month of August. My recommendation for a day in Monaco: start with a visit to Jacques Cousteau's acquarium, stroll through the old town nearby on top of the hill, take the elevator's down to the harbour and watch the megayachts from the shuttle boat that takes you across the harbour, take the elevators up again to the Casino, lunch at the Café de Paris, walk to the beaches where you can rent a daybed e.g. at La Rose des Vents, then do some shopping at the Metropole shopping center, followed by drinks at the Bar or Lobby of the Hotel de Paris and later indulge in an expensive dinner at the Rampoldi (or just above, on the terrace brasserie, but at a much lower price). Then you can start night life at SASS Cafe and finish in big style at discotheque JIMMYZ. My hotel favourites are the Metropole on the top end or the Columbus next to the heliport (Taking the heli in or out at ca. US$ 100 is another recommendation!).

Nagorno-Karabakh Visit: 2009-7
2009-09-01 - I took a private car from Yerevan to Stepanakert, crossed the border from Armenia to Karabakh and later obtained the visa at the immigration office in Stepanakert without problems. If you want to visit Turkey or Azerbaijan later on, you shouldn't stick the visa in your passport. The drive was ca. 4,5 hours through the beautiful Lower Caucasus. The best hotel in Stepanakert is the Hotel Armenia, right next to the Parliament building. It is a good 4 star at ca. US$ 100 which is already prepared for future "official state visits". The next morning I drove another beautiful 4,5 hours to Meghri were I crossed the border into Iran. The Irani border guards were extremely friendly when they saw a Western visitor and it seems like I could have entered without a prior visa (however I wouldn't risk it).

Nakhichevan Visit: 2009-7
2009-07-26 - I took a flight from Baku to Naxcivan on Azerbaijan Airlines (ATR 72). There seems to be a little mafia selling the tickets at Baku airport, as I couldn't get a flight for the next 5 days. Then I asked my local fixer (taxi driver come full service agent) and he got me a ticket for the next morning (US$ 200 instead of US$ 150 normal price). At Naxcivan airport I was the only foreigner and had to show my passport. They were a bit "soviet-style" initially, but after a friendly chat with the chief, he bent over backwards and even organized and personally walked me to a taxi heading to Igdir, Turkey (2,5 h drive, ca. US$ 75). I had a look at the best hotel in Naxcivan, without staying there, the Hotel Tabriz ****. Seemed ok.The border procedures Naxcivan/Turkey (right at the foot of Mount Ararat) took 1,5 hours, friendly, no hassles. They told me that only 1-2 Western tourists use this border per year.Beautiful landscapes all around.

New Caledonia (mainland) Visit: 2005-3
2009-09-13 - The mainland of New Caledonia is not so special, but I can highly recommend a trip to the small island "Isle des Pins". What a wonderful hideaway! The "Meridien Hotel" is pure luxury, lonely and exotic. Paddling in a canoe through the bays and a up the little freshwater river you see myriads of reef fish and even the occasional water snake (black and white or black and yellow stripes). Supposedly this is one of the most poisonous creatures on earth, but it is so small it may only bite you in the finger, or similar body parts. Good luck!

Sakha Republic (Yakutia) Visit: 2016-3
2016-03-11 - Die Anabar Strasse im sibirischen Yakutien führt über 2.000km von Mirny über Udacny, Olenyok und Saskylakh nach Yuryung-Khaya. Der Endpunkt dieser offiziellen russischen Strasse liegt bei 72°49’Nord und damit höher als das Nordkap in Norwegen (71°01’N) oder Point Barrow in den USA (71°29’N). Es ist somit das nördlichste Strassenende der Welt. Die Anabar Strasse kann ab Udacny nordwärts nur im Winter befahren werden (russ. “Zimnik” = Eisstrasse). Ein grosser Teil der Strecke befindet sich auf zugefrorenen Flüssen. Die Temperatur liegt im Winter zwischen -30° und -55°C. Bis zu unserer Fahrt im Februar/März 2016 hatte noch nie ein Ausländer die Anabar Strasse komplett befahren. Unser Startpunkt: Irkutsk. Endpunkt: Yakutsk. Gesamtstrecke: 7.000km auf Eis. [Es wird ein Erlaubnisschein des FSB für das nördliche Grenzgebiet benötigt, sowie mehrere 100 Liter Treibstoff, da dieser im Norden rationiert oder nicht verfügbar ist. Ausserdem ist ein Satellitentelefon angeraten, sowie unbedingt eine separate Wärmequelle, falls das Auto defekt geht.]

Sakhalin Island Visit: 2009-8
2009-09-01 - I arrived on Sakhalin Island by ferry (www.heartlandferry.jp) from Wakkanai/Hokkaido/Japan to the port of Korsakov. The best hotel in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is the "Mega Palace" for which I happily paid ca. US$ 150. This hotel is a really nice and new 4-5 star and could be a role model for the rest of Siberia. The city itself is still very much soviet-style, however the mountainous background, the surrounding seaside, the omnipresent heavy-duty 4x4s, even the ski lifts and ski jump tower give it a (future) tourist destination feeling. For onward travel you have the choice of taking another ferry, rather less comfortable, 18 hours from Kholmsk to Vanino on the Russian mainland, or by airplane with Vladivostok Air, SAT (to Japan), S7 (to Khabarovsk or Novosibirsk) or Aeroflot (to Moscow). I opted for the latter.

Seborga Visit: 2008-4
2009-09-13 - Seborga is situated a mere half hour drive from my hometown Monaco, but to be honest I had not heard of it, before I learnt on MTP that this is a separate country point. You will get nice food and an even nicer view from the hills.

Somaliland Visit: 2011-1
2011-01-26 - We obtained our Somaliland visas from their "embassy" in London by mail and entered the country by land from Djibouti at Loyada (15 min drive). We then took a Landcruiser taxi to Saylac (ca. 90 min drive) and went back on the same day. To continue the ride to Hargeysa would have been easily possible but the road conditions are rough.

South Sudan Visit: 2011-1
2011-01-26 - We entered Southern Sudan for the first time by taxi at Nadapal (30 min drive from Lokichoggio, Kenya), after a combination of cars from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. We obtained our visa / travel permit on arrival at Nadapal.

The next day we flew from Lokichoggio to Juba in a "World Food Programme" aircraft operated by the United Nations. It is possible to charter a seat, but you must be accredited by one of the local missions (NGOs) or try to persuade one to do so.

Juba is interesting and booming at this moment, plus there are many foreign NGO people around. The most important hotel in town is the Equatoria. I would however recommend to stay in one of the camps at the White Nile, for example the Oasis. Most hotel rooms in town are in containers with prices starting at US$ 150.

Value-for-money is a bad joke in Juba.

To get a Landcruiser to Uganda was difficult and cost us US$ 300 for the 2,5 hrs drive.

The road to the boarder is currently being reconstructed (to a decent dust piste) by a Turkish company. Mine fields and old tanks line the road.

The whole area is still quite rough and overlanding not totally safe.

Tajikistan Visit: 2009-8
2009-09-01 - I entered Tajikistan by car from Kirgistan crossing the border between Osh and Khujand, via Batken and Isfara. This drive is a bit complicated, since you have to circumvent the Uzbekistani exclaves on dirt roads and a river crossing (but doable in a 2x4). In Khujand, Tajikistans second-biggest town, I can recommend the new 3-4 star Hotel Sugd. The drive from Khujand to the capital Dushanbe took 9 hours on a rather bad road, mounting twice on higher than 3000m mountain passes, as the Chinese-built tunnels were not yet open. There can be considerable and erratic waiting time of a couple of hours whenever the road is closed for construction. The road is doable in a 2x4, but 4x4 is recommended. You need good nerves when you see the many wrecks down the steep Pamir mountains. In Dushanbe the best hotel by far is the Hyatt at ca. US$ 250, however the Hotel Tojikiston is another newly-renovated 5 star, which is not too bad either and costs only US$ 150. Flight options back to Europe were Tajikistan Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Air Baltic, the latter offering very good internet rates for early bookers. The visa for Tajikistan was available within 24hours in Bishkek. The Kirgistan visa is available on arrival at Bishkek airport. The Uzbekistan visa is much more complicated these days. Next time, I would take the other road from Osh via Murghab and Khorog (Hotel Serena!) on the Pamir Highway through the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast to Dushanbe. The separate GBAO visa must be applied for together with the Tajik visa.

Trans Dniester Visit: 2008-9
2009-05-09 - It is very easy to take a taxi from Chisinau, Moldova to Odessa, Ukraine in a 4,5 hours drive for ca. US$ 250 . This is a flashback in history, transporting you back to a living example of a Soviet-style society. Tiraspol (Bender) is worth a short stop. The exit at the border requires ca 10 minutes, respectively dollars, of discussions because you will not yet have a valid exit stamp from Moldova Republic, because they do not recognize TransDniester as a separate country. If you are already in the area, don't miss the semi-autonomous Republic of Gagauzia on the way (well, rather a 2 hours detour).

West Bank Visit: 2010-3
2010-03-18 - We entered Israel from Jordan at Allenby Bridge and used the VIP-shuttle, costing US$94 per person. A taxi took us to Jerusalem for US$90. My hotel recommendation in Jerusalem would be the American Colony in Summer and the King David or the David Citadel in winter. Technically we had been in the West Bank when entering the Israeli border, but realistically, and to see the reality of the Palestinian Territories, one needs to cross the "fence", probably the most intimidating border structure I have seen since the former East-German Wall. The Jacir Palace Intercontinental Hotel is a very nice place to stay in Bethlehem.

Yemen Visit: 2011-1
2011-01-26 - We visited Sanaa on a stop-over flight with Yemenia Airlines. This way, we did not need a visa and the airline even provided for free transport downtown and free accomodation in the Al Musafir Hotel (2-3 star). Although we had to leave our passports at the airport, we were completely free to travel around. We even changed our hotel to the Mövenpick, which I can highly recommend. Sanaa is certainly among the most beautiful and intriguing cities in the world.

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